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Knowing the difference between sensitive teeth and a tooth that is dying could save you days and weeks of discomfort. The initial symptoms experienced when a tooth is dying are very similar and easy to miss, this could cause someone to delay going to a dentist until their symptoms are much more severe.
Nobody should have to be in pain if they don’t have to so use the following information to help determine if you may have a dying tooth.
The number one symptom is tooth sensitivity, cold or hot liquids or solids touching the tooth will produce a sharp pain that can quickly fade once the temperature around the tooth normalizes. If you have sensitive teeth you should try to use a specific toothpaste for sensitive teeth which fills in the gaps in the enamel. If this does not provide relief after a few days, this could very well reveal you have a dying tooth.
More advanced symptoms of a dying tooth can include:
Numbness – The tooth and surrounding gums can become numb and have almost no feeling whatsoever, if you feel numbness, use a toothpick to touch and test to determine the extent of the numbness. See your dentist if you experience this stage to have the tooth x-rayed.
Discoloration – The tooth may take on a grayish or yellowish tinge as the decay happens and the tooth dies off. This is not necessarily always the symptom of a dying tooth, since stained teeth can be discolored as well. This symptom in itself is only a concern if combined with other symptoms, or this tooth specifically is discolored noticeably more than other teeth around it.
Pain – Constant pain in the tooth or surrounding gums could indicate infection, swelling or an abscess in the tooth or surrounding area. This could be an infected tooth, not necessarily dying one, but if you have this symptom you should be getting your tooth examined as your symptoms could get much worse. If you have a dying tooth infection can set in as the tooth pulp dies and the tissue becomes infected. This almost always leads to pain and an abscess swell in the gum and tooth center.
If your only symptom is tooth sensitivity that isn’t cleared up within three days of using a sensitive toothpaste, then you should see a dentist to have the tooth x-rayed and examined to determine if the tooth is damaged. worn enamel on a tooth doesn’t indicate that the tooth is dying, but if there was trauma to the tooth or a cavity in the tooth, the nerve of the tooth may be injured and dying.
I highly recommend you read the Wikipedia Entry Tooth entry as well, if you want to learn all about the parts of a tooth and the varieties of tooth symptoms and issues.